By Dave Andrusko
National Right to Life President and Pro-Life Perspective Host Carol Tobias revisits a decision handed down last month that, while not unexpected, sent a clear message. Unanimously the Georgia Supreme Court struck down a 1994 state law that banned people from publicly advertising suicide.
Mrs. Tobias explains the backdrop of the law’s passage: “Dr. Death”—Jack Kevorkian—was busy “assisting” suicides.
The law does not expressly ban assisted suicide, as the justices pointedly noted in their brief eight-page decision, written by Justice Hugh Thompson.
Instead there are felony charges only for anyone who “publicly advertises, offers or holds himself out as offering that he or she will intentionally and actively assist another person in the commission of suicide and commits any overt act to further that purpose.”
Specifically, Justice Thompson wrote,
“Had the state truly been interested in the preservation of human life, however, it could have imposed a ban on all assisted suicides with no restriction on protected speech whatsoever. Alternatively, the state could have sought to prohibit all offers to assist in suicide when accompanied by an overt act to accomplish that goal. The state here did neither.”
“The State has failed to provide any explanation or evidence as to why a public advertisement or offer to assist in an otherwise legal activity is sufficiently problematic.”
What may be next? Mrs. Tobias quotes from an Associated Press story:
“The decision left open a route for state lawmakers to explicitly outlaw all assisted suicides, as long as the law doesn’t infringe on free speech rights. Legislative leaders haven’t ruled out introducing legislation that would do just that, and the Georgia Attorney General’s office said it’s ready to help lawmakers if they bring forward legislation in response to the ruling.”
And that can’t happen too soon. As Burke Balch, director of National Right to Life’s Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics observes,
“The ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court puts the lives of older people and those with disabilities in grave danger because it opens the door for the fringe advocates of doctor-prescribed death to openly advertise the practice in the state of Georgia. This ruling essentially says if you want to advertise helping people jump off a cliff, you can hang out your shingle in Georgia.”
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